The Art of Being Okay

Chapter 1

Wikipedia: Guardians

Guardians is a program for aspiring, young writers, founded in 1970 by Mr. Moon. The original purpose of Guardians was to support young screen writers living in Canada where the enigmatic man grew up and got his start, but has now expanded to include journalism, fiction, children's books, and poetry. Its purpose is stated on their webpage:

"To help impoverished children, to open their eyes to achieving wonders, being believed in, remembering their dreams, and instilling the hope and drive to unlock their literary gifts and achieving their dreams.

We want to show impoverished kids and struggling families, that there is another way that doesn't involve drugs or crime or a nine to five job. We provide kids with new self-confidence, self-worth, and a sense of fun."

The above statements are not just for show; Guardians has helped a number of young children out of unsavory home situations and led many of their applicants to wild academic success. If you excel in their summer program, they can help pay for schools and offer scholarships.

Mr. Moon is also known for his recruitment and training of the bestselling author Nicholas North, former landscaper and film director, and currently a member of the board on Guardians. Mr. North has introduced the Guardian program to the United States.

Guardians has been widely successful and is responsible for donating millions of dollars in scholarships yearly.

It is a non-profit organization. It is this generosity, and the success of the program in finding the heart of a writer in young children that has kept this program afloat.

Guardians works in tandem with their sister program Rise. Rise was created in early 2000 by E. Aster Bunnymund and works with illustrators. Aster, after his own financial complications around his popular works, started Rise as a non-profit and has remained quite broke.

Toothiana, the agent of promising new author Jack Frost, is believed to be responsible for setting up communications between the two organizations, and has been accredited with much of the administrative work.

-Date June 11, 2013

...


...

There was a series of statistics after that, and some links to the history of the place, but that was boring. Jamie closed the page and leaped out of the spinny computer chair, dragging his eyes to the application packet his mom had brought home for him the other day.

Jamie thought that it sounded, well, hard. Difficult. More responsibility than Jamie had ever really wanted to think about or deal with. What about fun stuff? And games and posters and friends? And he might not even get in! Plus, Mr. North kind of scares him.

But school was expensive, and Jamie knew his mom didn't have much money. Jamie didn't have a dad, but his mom worked really hard. Despite that, without this program, Jamie didn't know what else he'd be able to do, or when else he'd be able to get an opportunity like this one.

Ugh. But that was grown-up thinking! All mature and everything! These were the things his mom was supposed to think about.

Jamie hated the idea that he'd be a grown-up one day. Grown-ups didn't seem to smile, or run or laugh a lot. And jobs! Jobs didn't seem any fun at all. Besides, what if he had to move to Canada or something? Huh? Who would take care of Sophie then?

Despite Jamie's best efforts, this was going to be some hard grown-up thinking with a grown-up decision in the end.

Which basically meant, he was doing the grown-up thing: applying for the program.

"Jaime? Are you up there Jamie? Have you made your decision?"

Fudge. His mom.

"Uh … y-yeah, mom. I think I have."

"That's great, sweetie! Why don't you come down here and tell me all about it. I've got pizza for dinner!"

Jamie looks at the clock beside his bed. It's only seven, which means him mom is home early tonight. Jamie smiles and bounces down the stairs. "Coming!"

"Don't forget to wash your hands!"

Jamie absolutely didn't roll his eyes. Nope. Not him. Instead, like the good son that he always is, he just goes and turns on the faucet. He keeps them there for about five seconds before slapping his hands on the towel and –

"With soap!"

"How did you know?" Jamie laughs, kind of delighted at what he knows are his mom's ninja powers.

"I'm a ninja," she calls back as Jamie finishes washing his hands properly.

"I knew it!" Jamie grins back.

"I'm sure you're a ninja as well. Just hurry up, and try not to wake Sophie."

Jamie couldn't believe he'd actually forgotten about Sophie, even for a minute. Clearly, that's what adult thinking did for you. You forget the important things. "Yeah, be right there."

When Jamie got downstairs, his mom was standing up and holding out a wrapped gift for him.

"I'm going to apply!" He blurts out.

His mom hugs him. "I'm glad." She hands him the present.

"But you didn't know that! Why did get me a gift?"

"Oh, Jamie." She sighs. "I knew you'd make the right choice. Whichever option you chose, I knew I was going to be proud of you."

Jamie gave his mom a Look. He'd never given anyone a Look before and he wasn't quite positive on what exactly a Look was. Still, he'd read about them, and the situation just seemed to call for it, y'know?

"Adults are weird. May I open it now, please?"

His mom laughed and nodded. A couple of impatient rips later, "I knew it! I knew it was true!" Jamie's eyes were shining as he looked down at the book titled, Mysterious Times: They're Out There. On the cover were pictures of bigfoot, an alien, a yeti and three others he couldn't identify. "This is like the coolest book ever!"

"Mammy?" a quiet voice comes from the top of the stairs. Oops. Jamie hadn't meant to wake Sophie up.

"Jamie!" Jamie's mom reprimanded him, walking towards the stairs.

Wincing, Jamie called back, "Sorry, mom!" It occurred to him that he was still talking loudly, and he winced again.

"Just eat your pizza. I'll be down in a minute."

...


...

Wikipedia: Jack Frost

Jack Frost is the mysterious, elusive new author picked up by Man in Moon Publications in 2010. There are no available or confirmed pictures of him, or record of birth. There is doubt of his actual existence as a person, and his name is presumed to be a pseudonym.

Novels accredited to Jack Frost include: Snowday, Death on a Lake, and Belief. He is celebrated as one of the current up and coming names in literature, and as a real magician by critics. Notable critic for the New York Times, Chris Pine, is quoted saying:

"Frost has a real gift for humor and capturing the lighthearted joy of children, the naïve as a foil for the dark, and those mind blowing moments of pure ice, pure frozen horror; it's a real delight to read his novels, for children, teens and adults." – Chis Pine, on Belief

Frost's works are Man in Moon Publication's (MiM) newest blockbuster, and fans are expecting to see many more things from this mysterious author, especially with the release of his newest novel, The Nightmare Place, rapidly approaching.

-Date: June 12, 2013

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...

Rapidly approaching my hairy behind, thinks E. Aster Bunnymund. It was bloody yesterday.

Page needs to be updated. Bunnymund hates Wikipedia. And it hadn't even mentioned Jack's collaboration with him on the origins of Easter children's book.

No, Bunnymund isn't bitter. Or envious. Only … bitter people were bitter.

"Crikey! This is getting me nowhere!" Bunnymund looks around for an excuse. He doesn't find one. He rarely does. He just wasn't, Bunnymund assumes, unconsciously puffing his chest out, that kind of person.

Right. Yeah, well, that also meant that he was going to be the kind of person who had to call Guardian.

Bunnymund kind of blamed Jack for that. Tooth had been more readily available before she'd gotten a job as Jack's editor and agent and general everything. Though, in Jack's defense, Tooth was kind of like everyone's everything.

Honestly, it was like the bloody girl could create miniature copies of herself, or owned an army of minions or something.

Bunnymund reaches for the phone and dials in North's number.

"'ello, mate!"

"Bunny!" Bunnymund had long since given up on getting anyone to call him anything but Bunny. He'd tried Mr., he'd tried Bunnymund, he'd even tried Aster, which was his middle fucking name. It had yet to happen, but Bunnymund was going to cling the hell out of that hope that he'd get something besides a Bunny just once.

(He was choosing to ignore the bit of him that didn't really mind it.)

"North. D'ya know how busy I am?"

"Surely, not too busy. Rise is not, after all, Guardian. You will come, we have much to talk about."

"Rise may not have the prestige –"

"Or the reach –"

"Illustrations don't get enough credit -"

"Regardless," North interrupts their argument, something he rarely does, "this will affect Rise as well. So. You come! I get Tooth!"

"Yeah, yeah. Bloody one in the morning, but I'll be there mate."

"Oh! And grab Frost. Bye now!"

"Wait –"

Click.

Great. Jack. Bloody. Frost. Man in Moon's newest writer and North's newest … something. Fuck. Student thing, perhaps.

Bunnymund's biggest pain in the ass sore point.


...

Jack is wandering aimlessly outside while Bunnymund and North were having their discussion, in the harsh, frozen winter wonderland the city became at had just gotten back from visiting Pippa at the hospital. There was a thing and her still-too-skinny body wasn't dealing with it well – but this time, he had money.

Regardless, struggling to take care of Pippa on the streets had been his life for years. It had been his life since their father abandoned the young boy and his sister in the early 1990s to the dirt and filth of the streets.

He is comfortable here on the streets, was comfortable homeless and starving. That sounded worse than it was.

The first time Jack believes that, he is twelve and Pippa is six. The second is when seeing how little he could eat – how much food he could give Pippa – became a good thing, a game. That it is because she deserves it more than him is the third lie.

Jack lied to Pippa, lied to himself, about hope, about finding a job, about getting off the streets, but the only lies he could make himself believe were the ones that protected him, that made him fine.

And when the lies became too much, Jack wrote. Jack would write, invisible to the citizens of New York, about dragons and bad dreams, the cold and the snow, death and new beginnings, paradoxes and the outsiders view into humanity. But most importantly, Jack writes about joy.

Jack writes about laughter and fun and everything wonderful under the sun, joy as an escape from the cold, icy, reality. Jack isn't sure when it became something more.

When he writes, Jack always thinks of children.

Writing eventually became another excuse though. He needed words, and paper, and pens more than food. He probably did, too, then.

Two years ago, during Christmas, an utterly ripped twenty-something year old security guard had handed Jack a contract for books at Man in Moon Publications and North's phone number. North read his first couple of pages and handed him down payment. Down payment of fifteen hundred dollars.

(Totally his pimp.)

This money thing, this writing thing. Every day, it was a surprise. North, Phil-the-Russian-security-guard, knowing he has somebody outside himself, knowing he can be more, he won't always be an invisible street kid on the, well, streets, is a constant surprise.

Jack has an apartment now, and he still spends most of his time on the streets, because he forgets.

Jack laughs.

It's pretty funny.

"Frost! Mate!"

Jack whips around and lets out a delighted "Bunny!"

"Ya know our book? Isn't even mentioned in your credits."

Jack smirks. "Listen, I'm touched you care about me getting all the credit I deserve."

"Yeah, I'm a wonder like that. Get in the car, sweetheart."

Slightly sarcastically, and still smirking, Jack adds: "Aw. I had no idea you really cared!"

"Kid. There are not many people that can mock me. Young things who dye their hair white are not on that list."

Jack gets into the car, still laughing internally at Bunnymund. "Bunny. There aren't many things people can't mock about you." He explains.

"Oi!"

"I mean, just start with you name –" Jack is teasing, used to Bunnymund's grumpiness after working with him for five months. Bunnymund, however, is not used to Jack's teasing.

"Shut it about the name."

"Sure thing, Kangeroo."

Bunnymund doesn't say another word for the rest of the short drive, but Jack can see him quivering with rage, while Jack's own shoulders shake from unceasing bursts of mirth.

The gigantic jeep pulls up on the curb in front of Guardian headquarters, Bunnymund honking his horn, obnoxiously.

It does not have the intended affect. North, instead, throws open the window to top floor of the large Guardian headquarters for New York, where North's office was, of course, located.

"Bunny! Jack! You are here! Tooth and Sandy upstairs already!" He singsongs the last bit, and beckons them with his huge hands.

North's voice echoes down to them, undoubtedly waking up several dozen blocks of sleeping people.

"S-sandy?" Jack opens his mouth, utterly shocked. "Legendary landscape artist and scenery director for – for – any big thing ever?!" Jack asks Bunnymund, too overcome to care that he was asking Bunnymund.

"Here we go. Alright, kid. Let's get inside and ya can do your little fangirl dance in there."

Jack is too busy being excited to listen to Bunny. In the natural order of things, listening to Bunny was outranked by several millions of things, fun things, according to Jack, so that was nothing new.

Childishly, Jack runs through the door to Guardian New York headquarters, bouncing on the balls of his bare feet. The skinny boy moved with a captivating grace, light and quick, almost like a snowflake dancing on the wind, if you were feeling poetic. (Or a spider, moving through its web, if you weren't.)

He could be a ballerina on stage, because all the world's a stage, or a butterfly having spurious sex with a flower. A cat, ready to rip you limb from limb or the dancing auroras borealis.

And this is how Jack makes his way up to the top floor of Guardian, watched by some of the biggest names in literature. So, of course, he is all of those things and more.

"Oh! Hey, Phil!"


...

Somewhere down the line Dr. Bennett would cave and ask him why he'd used third person and Jack would shrug, twist his lips up crookedly, flashing her his teeth and not answer, but for now she was content to simply accept the pages that Jack would allow her.

It wouldn't be until years later that Jack would pull her aside at a dinner party drunk and tell her that he wrote it in third person because he was afraid he'd never stop being that person, the Jack Frost that carved a hole for himself in the world and then burned it and everyone foolish enough to get close.



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